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The Internet, a Tool for Art?



Artists Incognito - The convenience of being unknown


Marshall McLuhan said "The medium is the message".

A message's content is shaped by the transporting medium. The medium is the reality, the context, in which the message exists. It makes a difference for instance, whether a teacher is standing in front of a class, showing pictures of trees, or a video, or branches and leafs, or if he is going for a walk in the forest with the students.
Delivering a message, art, in the first place, is communication. I don't want to open up the topic "what is art?", but of course our perception of an artpiece is based on the medium. In the history of art, there was always the genuine artist, "someone special". In performing arts and music, the artist acted from a stage towards a crowd of "usual people". The crowd was just able to receive the message, and either applaud or leave. In visual arts and literature the artist conserved the message, delivered to the public through another medium, like a painting, a book, a movie. The recipient could only read, listen, watch - the ability to give direct feedback is not even existent anymore. This one-way-communication cultivates a hierarchical system and always stages the artist as a special person, as elite. But isn't the desire to express one's view at the same time a desire to get a feedback, to really exchange messages and develop contents?
Especially related to political or societal issues (and all art is political) - does it really make sense, talking about democracy while standing on a stage?

The internet as a mass medium offers techniques to vanishingly shrink the gap between artist and audience and support the evolution of ideas. The artist no longer has to be the teacher in front of the class - now the artist can be a member of a network, student and teacher at the same time.


(Björk, "Declare Independence", 2008)


Internet art or guerilla communication is not about achieving money or fame. It is only about producing, sharing and spreading content. The activists often play with several identities, use pseudonyms or work anonymously as an invisible part of a crowd. Pointing to Beuys' Social Sculpture, the movement itself clarifies, that

"human identity is nothing other than the articulation and intersection of collective praxes, that there is no human nature outside these".

(autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe, "All or None? Multiple Names, Imaginary Persons, Collective Myths")

Many archives documenting work of internet activists, like for instance web archive of the autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe, are open to be shared. All publications on this site, involving a huge amount of topics related to art, society, politics and economy, are provided as .pdf downloads. Anyone can join the movement and distribute own writings - anonymously. Many of those articles are not signed by an author, or instead signed with pseudonyms.
At the bottom of the text quoted above, the author mentions the name "Luther Blisset". Luther Blisset is a Multi-Use-Name, another website explains the following:

"In 1994, hundreds of European artists, activists and pranksters adopted and shared the same identity. They all called themselves Luther Blissett and set to raising hell in the cultural industry."



luther blisset

(image: Luther Blisset)


Based on this collectively used pseudonym a myth is created and reproducing itself. On one hand it is the consequent realization of the idea of collective intelligence, manifested in one (imaginary) person - acquiring the fame of an ingenious individual, like a popstar or movie star the cultural industry produces. On the other hand the pseudonym makes it difficult for authorities to observe, control or punish the activists hiding behind it. Ironically, while caricaturing the "cult of the individual", the collective identity protects the real individual by dint of solidarity.
Because separating and isolating people to weaken them is one main strategy of repression in capitalism, negotiating the personal desire for recognition (and fame as an artist) raises the awareness of being part of a global community, revolting against those structures of power.

"The use of multiple names is thus almost a pristine way of taking recourse to archaic forms, which question the separation between the individual and the collective: multiple names are not primarily forms of anonymity (as such they are not better than no name at all), but rather the most radical attack imaginable on modern concepts of bourgeois subjectivity and identity. They vividly demonstrate that these concepts are only illusions that are alien to the nature of the human being."

(autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe, "All or None? Multiple Names, Imaginary Persons, Collective Myths")

The Anonymous Network is not about being a famous artist, or even a hero. It is about being ONE:


(Video by Anonymous, Youtube)


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